Archive for December, 2009

desperate mad innovations

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

We’ve mentioned before the essential role that Big Wally’s plaster repair has played in the rehab of both our Living Room, what will be our bedroom, and we expect every other room of the house. Big Wally’s reattaches the plaster walls to the wooden lathe that sit behind it. When mad used Big Wally’s in the living room, we came very close to running out of the precious caulk. Therefore, I ordered twice the amount of caulk for the bedroom. Unfortunately, the walls in the bedroom were in worse shape than the living room. And with about 12 holes that still required caulk, we ran out. You can only buy Big Wally’s on the internet, so mad needed to implement some combat tactics in order to stay on schedule. As documented before, mad performs well under pressure. Using a chopstick and a pair of scissors we were able to squeeze those last few drops of caulk out of every tube. Thankfully, it was just enough to fill those remaining 12 holes. Most important, it kept the final week of the bedroom rehab work on track.

Completed bedroom plaster repair thanks to scissors, chopsticks, and guile.

sometimes you eat the bar . . .

Monday, December 28th, 2009

and, as the dude would say, sometimes the bar eats you. While it’s been a struggle, mad continues to make progress towards completing the rehab on what will be our primary bedroom. Our goal is to have the bedroom complete around the first of January, which means the clock is ticking. In case you’re new to mad maison, or our living room rehab feels like a distant memory, the steps for being “primer ready” are extensive:

1. Remove crazy-glued, band-aid brand wallpaper that was hidden under layers of paint. Remember to employ water, steam, DIF spray, and anything else you can think of to get the wallpaper off. Curse occasionally when a piece of wall accompanies the wallpaper. Sacrifice at least one outfit to the wallpaper removal deities and tell yourself you still have three rooms and a hallway to go (and with them, plenty of opportunities to wear this crusty ensemble).
2. Identify all of the cracks in the walls of the room and determine how many of those cracks represent the walls coming of the lathe. Grumble when you realize it’s most of the cracks. Stare in wonder at the crack that goes up one wall, across the ceiling, and down the other wall.
3. Drill holes in the wall in preparation for the Big Wally’s treatment. Remember to get out all destructive feelings during the drilling.
4. Complete the Big Wally’s repair process by spraying conditioner and then caulk into the holes you just created (yes, even upside-down on the ceiling). Screw in temporary clamps to ensure the Big Wally treatment does it’s job. Wait 24 hours.
5. Slather copious amounts of joint compound/patching plaster over every hole, gouge, crack, and crevice in the walls (yes, even upside-down on the ceiling). Wait 24 hours.
6. Sand the walls as smooth as possible without removing all the joint compound you just applied.
7. Apply two coats of primer–the first primer these walls will see in their 101 years on this planet.
8. Apply two coats of paint.

This room should have been easier than the living room. It’s smaller, the ceilings are lower, and there was no mantle to remove. Alas, this was not the case. The wallpaper was beyond comprehension and underneath that wallpaper the walls were in much worse shape. Despite this, mad endures. We’ve completed all plaster repair and we’ll have finished all the joint compound application before we head to bed tonight. I’m taking off this week from work so we can achieve our goal. Our plan is to sand tomorrow and prime on Wednesday. Painting, which Mike used to hate more than anything, will be our favorite part of the process.

I read a lot of “shelter” and home design blogs when I’m not working or working on mad maison (feel free to check out Apartment Therapy’s 2009 Homies feature to see the variety of blogs out there). When I lived in New York, these were a fun distraction that provided the occasional inspiration for a small tweak to our perfect (in our eyes) home. Now, they inspire me to action and, I will admit, occasionally make me feel a little slow and inadequate. But then I remind myself that Mike and I signed up for the entire journey together, not just the destination. I remember that I live in one of the best cities on earth where I get to enjoy not only the history of this 101 year-old building but the family history that comes with living in the house my Dad grew up in. I remind myself that all of this home rehab work will be well worth it when it’s done. I remind myself that we’ll be living in chaos for only a fraction of the time we’ll be living in this house. And I look out the window of what will be our beautiful bedroom, past the rooftops of those uniquely San Franciscan homes and at the peak of the Bay we get to see and remind myself that this is all well worth it.

We at mad maison definitely have more in common with the tortoise than the hare. Finishing will be all the 'win' we need. Photo courtesy of

Holiday Revelations & Resolutions

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

While running some mad-oriented errands on the commercial strip of Diamond St. in Glen Park, I stepped out of my vehicle recently to discover an odd bit of adornment on the parking meters that I hadn’t seen before. We’ve already been struggling with the red & yellow-topped restricted meters all over SF in the never-ending search for parking….isn’t that quite enough, already? Now we have another restriction to worry about?

On closer inspection, I realized that it was a red ribbon wrapped around the meter pole to suggest a candy cane. Oh, that’s a relief, I thought to myself. I’m glad I’m not one of those jaded New Yorkers or anything.

In other mad-related developments, we’re inching ever closer to our goal of completing the upstairs bedroom. Our latest task consisted of drilling holes all over the room to allow the magical “Big Wally’s” caulk to work its charm. It does have the unique effect of suggesting a game of “connect the dots” run terribly awry, or an interstellar constellation. It (almost) makes us regretful that we’ll have to cover it up as we paint.

We’re holding steadfast in our belief that the new year & the new decade will see vast improvements in our humble home, and in our lives. We’re feeling eager & enthusiastic about the future, and we hope everyone reading this feels the same.

Happy Holidays to our dedicated readership, or, better yet, Happy Whatever-You-Wantakah.

another madcap parking designation in Glen Park.

another zany parking designation in Glen Park.

We’re still here. . .

Monday, December 7th, 2009

I have no excuses. I’ve been back from my business travels for a couple of weeks now, and honestly, it took me a while to recuperate. After the Thanksgiving holiday (and I hope all of our readers had a pleasant holiday), I knew I was starting to feel better when I cooked honest-to-goodness meals in our kitchen every night last week. Our kitchen was remodeled in the 80’s, and we had some new appliances installed before we moved in. So while the honey-oak cabinets and flowered wallpaper isn’t to mad’s taste, it’s a little more fun to cook in that our tiny galley-style NYC apartment kitchen. After all that wholesome nutrition, it’s not surprising that I felt inclined to get back to work. Mike and I attacked our bedroom walls and we have removed almost all of the wallpaper. Mike and I are confident that with some additional work during this week, we’ll be ready for plaster repair next weekend. Our goal is to have the bedroom walls complete (including paint) by the end of December. I know I say this with every room, but I do believe this is the hardest room we’ll have to complete. Unlike the dining room or other bedroom, the room we’re working on now (like the living room before it) has painted-over wallpaper, which is particularly challenging to remove. But thanks to copious amounts of DIF wallpaper removal gel, a Wagner power steamer, and lots of elbow grease, we’re getting it off. The fact that wallpaper has “come back” as a design trend boggles our minds–and we think anyone who is thinking of installing wallpaper in their home should come to ours and help us get this stuff off the walls.

In the meanwhile, I was looking at one of my favorite blogs, Apartment Therapy, and read an interesting post about a simple remodel that involves the two primary things mad plans to do with our kitchen–paint the cabinets and replace the counters with butcher block. Feel free to take a peak at a place that a little more “finished” than ours.

A little eye candy. Photo credit:

A little eye candy. Photo credit: